Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Report-Card Grades for Bucs' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
Just like every other NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a mad scramble after the draft was completed to sign some of the top undrafted talent available. Last season, 31 percent of all players on NFL rosters came into the league as undrafted free agents, making this aspect of the draft process arguably just as important as this weekend's seven-round marathon.
In all, the Bucs have announced 11 official signings, bringing in prospects from well-known programs like Florida and Texas A&M, while also digging as deep as Virginia-Lynchburg to find talent.
As opposed to their all-offense draft class, Tampa Bay's undrafted free-agent crop is balanced evenly, with six offensive signings and five players coming in on the defensive side of the ball.
It's always tough to assign a grade to rookies who haven't even hit the field yet, but based on their potential value, here is how the Bucs made out in their search for the next "diamond in the rough."
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Brett Smith's offseason has been full of surprises.
Despite accounting for 97 total touchdowns in his three years at Wyoming, Smith was a surprising early entrant into this year's draft. As an undersized quarterback without elite arm strength, some scouts were scratching their heads over Smith's decision to leave school early.
Even so, some thought it odd that Smith wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, given the gaudy numbers he put up for the Cowboys. Smith showed that the league's combine-inviting authorities might have made a mistake with an impressive performance at his pro day, which included a 4.51 50-yard dash.
Lovie Smith has been clear that Josh McCown is the Bucs' starter for the time being and that the team is committed to Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. That being said, Smith's intriguing skill set could be worth keeping on the roster, just to see what he can develop into. Having his top college target on the team in sixth-round pick Robert Herron won't hurt his chances of impressing during rookie minicamp, either.
Solomon Patton, WR, Florida
The Bucs may have waited until the sixth round of the draft to add top-end speed at receiver with Wyoming's Robert Herron, but they found more in Gainesville with Solomon Patton.
Much like Herron, Patton is undersized at just 5'8", 179 pounds. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for with speed and quickness. Despite his slight frame, Patton shows surprising toughness when going over the middle, and his catch radius is fairly impressive for a receiver of his stature.
Though he faces a depth chart that doesn't have much wiggle room at receiver, Patton's skill set is tailor-made for the slot, and a good rookie minicamp just might allow him to stick.
Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
He was the "other" defensive end at South Carolina in 2013, but while Chaz Sutton may not be his top-overall-pick counterpart, his value as an undrafted free agent is hard to argue with.
Sutton started all 13 games last season. Registering three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, the Savannah native posted very similar numbers at the Gamecocks' pro day to what Jadeveon Clowney had at the combine. At 6'3", 245 pounds, Sutton ran his 40-yard dash in the mid-4.6 range, while adding 27 reps on the bench press and a 35.5-inch vertical jump.
He's very undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, so it will interesting to see if that's where he lines up for the Bucs at the rookie minicamp. Though he'll have to compete for reps with the likes of DaQuan Bowers, William Gholston and Steven Means, Sutton's skill set and starting experience in the SEC makes him an intriguing prospect.
Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College
A local high school standout, Matt Patchan will get his first crack at the NFL in his hometown.
A transfer from Florida who followed his position coach, Steve Addazio, to Boston College, Patchan helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way for 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams last season. A late addition to the Senior Bowl, Patchan has dealt with some crazy adversity in his life off the field and has struggled to stay healthy when on the field.
Though he could stand to add a little bulk to his frame, the converted defensive lineman has all the natural tools to be an NFL tackle if he can avoid injuries. The Bucs are still trying to build a deep unit on the offensive line, and Patchan should get every chance to contribute.
Keith Lewis, CB, Virginia-Lynchburg
The Bucs had to go all the way to the USCAA to find Virginia-Lynchburg CB Keith Lewis, but they could have a gem on their hands.
Lewis boasts an elite combination of size and speed, standing 6'1" and having been timed in the 40-yard dash as fast as 4.21 seconds. The man they call "Cromartie" put together an impressive highlight reel for Lynchburg and looks like he should have been on an FBS roster.
His level of competition leaves many wondering how well he'll be able to translate to the speed of the NFL game, but if he can develop the technique and intangibles to go along with his natural ability, the Bucs could have a huge steal on their hands.
Nate Askew, LB, Texas A&M
With an all-offense draft class, the Bucs chose not to address the need for depth at linebacker with any of their selections. However, they may have added a potential contributor in Texas A&M's Nate Askew.
A converted receiver, Askew switched to defense for his senior season, making three starts in 2013. The San Antonio native tallied 33 tackles and a pair of interceptions, while scoring a touchdown on both offense and defense last season.
Askew is still learning the finer points of the defensive side of the ball, but his athleticism is intriguing. If anyone can get the most out of Askew and help him reach his potential as a defender, it'll be Lovie Smith.
Aaron Burks, WR, Boise State
The Bucs spent three of their six draft picks on weapons for the passing game, but that hasn’t stopped them from bringing in more via the undrafted free-agent route.
A pass-catcher with an attractive combination of size and speed, Burks started three games in 2013 for the Broncos, hauling in an average of 17.2 yards per catch on the year. At 6’3”, 205 pounds, Burks has been timed as fast as 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, an impressive time for a receiver of his size.
Though his frame and measurables are intriguing, Burks faces an uphill battle to win a roster spot at receiver.
Euclid Cummings, DT, Georgia Tech
Athletic defensive linemen who can penetrate and disrupt opposing offenses at the point of attack are a must-have in the Tampa 2 defense. To that end, Georgia Tech's Euclid Cummings could be a great fit.
At 6'4", 275 pounds, Cummings is a bit lean to stay at his defensive tackle position at the next level, but it's possible he could add some bulk to hold his own on the interior. Known for his leadership and enthusiasm both on the field and in the locker room, Cummings was invited to play in the Medal of Honor Bowl all-star game.
At the very least, Cummings could challenge for playing time as a situational inside rusher on passing downs. His athleticism and versatility are worth taking a chance on.
Andrew Miller, G, Virginia Tech
Another solid addition who could get a chance to add some valuable depth to the offensive line, Virginia Tech’s Andrew Miller also brings versatility to the table for Tampa Bay.
A second-team All-ACC selection in 2013, Miller was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his dominant performance against in-state rival Virginia in Week 14. Miller started all 13 games last year after recovering from ankle surgery that ended his 2012 campaign early.
The Bucs are clearly looking to improve their depth up front, and players who have experience at multiple positions in a top conference can be valuable.
Mycal Swaim, S, Eastern Michigan
Another Medal of Honor Bowl invitee, EMU's Mycal Swaim is the only safety headed to Tampa Bay as a 2014 undrafted free agent.
A transfer from Butte College in California, Swaim racked up 81 tackles for the Eagles 2014. At 6'4", 215 pounds, he definitely has the prototypical frame that you want from a safety, and he recently impressed with his pro day performance, logging a 39" vertical leap.
Though the Bucs have starters entrenched at both starting spots and Major Wright was brought in for depth, Swaim has the size and physical tools to make the team, especially if he can impress early on special teams.
Josh Allen, G, Louisiana-Monroe
After waiting until the fifth round to address their need at guard, the Bucs snatched up a pair of them as free agents, including Josh Allen.
Allen has starting experience at both guard and center, but the team’s official release lists him as a guard. A first-team All-Sun Belt selection, Allen was named to the conference’s second team at guard in 2012 before switching to center in 2013.
Injuries are inevitable, especially on the offensive line, making depth vital. Allen’s versatility will be a valuable commodity on that unit and could help him make the team.